UPS has teamed up with drone specialists Matternet for the first FAA-sanctioned use of drones to transport products. Matternet drones will deliver medical supplies and samples at the WakeMed’s hospital and campus in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The pilot program is being overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration and North Carolina Department of Transportation. Today’s inaugural flight marks the beginning of daily flights across the campus.
Pilot program paves the way for regular drone delivery
The program is a breakthrough for drone and other uncrewed delivery services in the United States. Currently WakeMed transports the majority of its medical samples and supplies across campus by car. The new drone delivery system would allow, for faster and more efficient transportation of goods including same-day delivery.
The drone would also be able to avoid delays often experienced by the cars on the roads. UPS says the system is also better for the environment.
“UPS Healthcare & Life Sciences is excited to expand on our current lab specimen logistics portfolio to drive step change in today’s delivery models. Using drones to bring blood and other diagnostic specimens from medical facilities to central labs will improve transport efficiencies like never before. And with fewer vehicles on the road, we’ll generate less environmental impact,” says Chris Cassidy, President of Global Healthcare & Life Sciences Strategy, UPS.
Flights monitored by safety officials
The system works by medical professional loading a secure drone container containing medical supplies, samples or specimens at one of WakeMeds facilities. The drone then flies along a set, pre-programmed route. It is monitored during its flight by a specially trained Remote Pilot-in-Command (RPIC).
The done then lands at a fixed point at WakeMed’s main hospital and central pathology lab. Data will be collected during the programs initial period that will be used to plan for how drones can be a part of transport services at other hospitals and medical facilities across the U.S.
UPS makes the medical industry a priority
A Matternet M2 quadcopter, powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery will be used in the initial WakeMed program. The drone can carry payloads of up to 2.2kg and can fly 20 kilometers.
UPS has expanded into healthcare logistics, and the company says it is making this sector a priority of its transformation strategy. The WakeMed program is the latest drone initiative by the famous logistics company. Back in 2016 UPS teamed up with GAVI and Zipline to deliver blood products to remote locations in Rwanda.
Matternet is also an experienced player in the healthcare industry. The drone technology company has already completed more than 3,000 flights for healthcare systems in Switzerland.
The company says they have plans to change the way medical deliveries are made across the world.
“Together with UPS, we aim to shift the status quo for on-demand logistics for healthcare systems in the U.S. through drone delivery networks. Our technology allows hospital systems to transport medical items at an unprecedented level of speed and predictability, resulting in improved patient care and operational savings. We are excited to work with our partners to breathe new life into healthcare logistics, and help establish a new layer of ultra-fast, predictable transportation.”